Why do cremations require caskets?

Just curious- question says it all- but I’ll add for those who don’t know that bodies are cremated inside of their caskets. Usually it’s a particle board special “cremation casket” that’s a lot cheaper, but I was curious why the entire body isn’t just shown into the furnace. (You can hardly blame it on health reasons since the person’s already dead and his/her remains are going to be incinerated either way.)

A non-gory video [pt.1] of a cremation [pt. 2] (no bodily remains visible) if you’ve never seen one.

Cremation trivia: In electronic furnaces today it takes about 1 1/2 hours at just over 1,700 degrees to incinerate the body. Imagine how much wood that took “back in the day”.

I will post my WAG, but I don’t believe that caskets are required. Although it may be the policy of the crematorium. The reason being that you are treating the remains respectfully. You are not throwing Grand dad’s body into a fire, but you are cremating his remains. Do you follow? There are a lot of traditions associated with the end of life and this has become one.

SSG Schwartz

Not exactly, either of you. California law, anyway, specifically forbids crematories to require caskets, but the health and safety code does require a cremation container. Such a container is usually made of cardboard, and must be able to be closed and prevent leaks. I suspect other locales have similar restrictions.

My uncle was just cremated, and he was not cremated in a casket. He was basically in just a cardboard box. Health and safety codes aside, the box is pretty much necessary to get the body into the furnace - at least at this crematorium. Human bodies are difficult to move. The furnace was heated to operating temperature before inserting the body, and trying to insert a container-less body into an operating furnace is just asking for trouble.

When my father died, the least expensive option for a cremation was a cardboard box. The box looks exactly like a file or moving box, complete with little printed boxes needed for identification, including date of death. It did not, thankfully, have the name of the funeral home printed on it. My guess then was that they needed some way to identify the body on the way to the crematorium and while in storage.

Never mind the videos. Have you ever cremated someone you loved?

After my grandmother’s funeral, we took her to the cemetery/crematorium and had one final goodbye ceremony just for the family. I lit some incense, knelt and bowed three times, then stood and looked one last time at her face, so waxen and unnatural and smelling sweetly from the preservatives, her eyes glued shut. She was dressed in her favorite outfit, and on her chest they had placed her favorite hat, the odd fake leopard-skin pillbox hat I had seen her wear not all that long ago, the last time I saw her alive.

And yet, even in my state of deep mourning, I smiled just a little as the Bob Dylan song Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat from Blonde on Blond began playing unbidden in the back of my head. I always thought my mental jukebox was a background process… Now I know.

The casket wouldn’t shut quite tight with the hat on her chest, so they handed it to my mother and closed the casket with a very final sounding thud. They screwed the lid down, and took it towards a door into the crematorium, which was directly adjacent to the chapel. At the last moment, my mother put the hat on top of the casket. We watched through a window between the chapel and the crematorium as they put it onto a conveyor belt.

I watched as the belt sped up and propelled her casket into the oven. A metal door slid into place after it went in. And even if there had been any more to see, I could not see to see.

Why do cremations require caskets? How else would the body, the shell of a loved one, go into the oven? Can you imagine it being stuffed in like a rag doll… Tossed in like firewood?

I can certainly imagine it. With absolutely no disrespect meant to your feelings and beliefs, my father is probably going to be dead within the next year. I don’t believe in souls, but soul or not, the meat that will be left behind when he dies isn’t him. It’s 160 or so pounds of matter that has to be disposed of in some way. Caskets are expensive. Why should my mother spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a wooden bow that’s going to be reduced to ashes along with the meat? Put the body in the minimum thing required to get it into the furnace and be done with it.

No, but I could see it being strapped to a plank and entered, or some device invented to put the body in. It just seems an extra way to gouge the bereaved (some of the cremation coffins cost upwards of $1,000 and the cheapest I found online was $300; that’s a lot of money for what’s basically a refrigerator box).

I find expensive/reverential disposal of human remains in general to be a barbaric leftover and I wish that cremation was a public service (not demanded of anyone, but available). I like its finality but I don’t think the profit margin should be so high.
I’ve loved people who were cremated (and one who, unfortunately, was not for several years) but I’ve never witnessed the process. My mother once favored cremation but changed to burial just before her death; had she been cremated I’m not sure whether I’d have witnessed it or not- probably not so long as I was certain of no Nobel type situation. (On the video they mention that some Indian families prefer to have the oldest son turn on the furnace as a traditional act descended from when they would have lite the pyre, but my understanding is that this is fairly routine for all ethnicities.)

When my wife was dying I made arrangements for her cremation. There was not going to be a viewing; the nature of her illness was such that I knew she would not want her friends to remember her that way. The day she died I called the crematorium and they came and picked up the body. I went to their office and completed the paperwork. There was no coffin, and I had no interest in being there to watch anything. IIRC there was a charge for “materials” which I presume was the container in which her body was placed for the cremation. A week or so after she died, the crematorium office called me to come in and collect the ashes.

Could it be so that the crematorium personnel do not have to handle dead bodies directly?

I vote for “human bodies are difficult to move.” (Yeah, yeah – it’s GQ and I’m not supposed to vote!) You’ve got crematorium workers who have to handle getting bodies into the furnace, and what about bodies that are not completely intact, as a result of an accident?

My mom was cremated in a glorified cardboard box, because my far-flung siblings wanted a chance to get there and have closure by seeing her, which meant embalming, etc. My sister died unexpectedly and was cremated, but I don’t know if she was required to be in a box. I’ll have to ask my other sibs.

Are there special “cremation caskets”?

The reason I ask is that there was a big scandal in Australia ten or so years ago about undertakers simply throwing the body in alone and reselling the expensive coffin. As a result, when my former mother-in-law died, it was a requirement of the crematorium that the funeral director and also one or two family members witness the actual cremation. I wasn’t close to the lady, but nobody else had the stomach to do it, so I went in and saw the cremation process. The casket was definitely not particle board, but an expensive burial-type coffin with brass fittings and the works. We watched the jet of flame come down onto the coffin - the flowers on top literally vaporised in a secons, such was the heat. Ten seconds later, and the wood of the coffin was starting to obviously catch fire on its own. Only then did they close the door and allow us to leave.

I love this place.

I have occasionally wondered this as well, especially since I vaguely recall reading somewhere that the resulting ashes are not as near to 100% of the dearly departed’s remains as you might think. I met someone once who wore a small vial on a chain around his neck, and he told me the vial contained some of his father’s ashes. Because of what I’d read, I thought to myself that it would be a real drag if he was actually wearing a vial of oak ashes.

My Dad was cremated in a cardboard box. The Gov’t paid for most of it as he was a Veteran of WWII. His ashes are in an urn at the Veterans cemetary.

Yes, you are correct. When daHubby started out at our office, he was an inspector and since he was low man on the rock, he had to do crematoriums, both people and animal. At his first crematory inspection, the funeral director told him this.

Interesting info. Am I the only one to think of the crematory scenes from the James Bond flick Diamonds are Forever? Sure creeped me out as a boy.

I believe it may be state to state.
My son was cremated in a cardboard box. The funeral director said it was needed to make the trip into the crematorium smoother.

I didn’t attend the actual cremation. It was just too much for me.

Where I am, the body does not have to be in a casket, either before cremation or afterward. They must be in a certain kind of container if they are going to be interred. That would be up to the cemetery.

Interestingly enough, we were checking about whether you needed permission to sprinkle the ashes in a certain place when my father-in-law died (specifically, if they could be thrown out of a plane over the Rockies) and it turns out that you do not need permission. The VA will arrange such a burial for vets for a very reasonable fee, or the deceased’s survivors can do it themselves.

ETA: They don’t need to be wearing clothes, either. My husband asked whether we should bring a suit of clothes for my FIL and was told that, as there was not going to be a viewing, his birthday suit would do fine.

I’ve witnessed dozens of human cremations (all only in Florida, though) and in each case the deceased was in a cardboard box . It’s necessary because of the near impossibility of getting a person from a gurney at waist height through a tiny furnace door without rolling along cardboard tubes, which go nicely under the box to allow the cardboard ‘casket’ a smooth and full entry into an incinerator that’s already up to operating temp.
Newer model animal incinerators, as an aside, are usually equipped with lift-bucket systems along their sides which transport animal carcasses up and into the mouth of the burner where they’re pretty unceremoniously dumped. I don’t think anyone would recommend this for people. Plus, more moving parts is just more to break.